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A safe future

Posted: 7 February 2012 | Mark Glover, Commissioning Editor, International Airport Review | No comments yet

The issue of aviation safety has always produced comment, debate and input on a political global scale. Legislation is drawn up and adhered to although further harmonisation is required across the world for standards to become effective. This topic, as well as numerous other subjects were talked about and recently dissected at the Marriot Hotel in Brussels on the 22 and 23 of November 2011.

Zarrko Sivcev, Advisor to COO at EUROCONTROL began proceedings by present – ing the organisation’s involvement in previous crisis situations such as the Balkans in 1999 and more recently the volcanic ash cloud that originated in Iceland and grounded planes across most of Europe. Sivcev was keen to stress the importance of efficient communication as well as garnering political support. Ultimately, it seems that being prepared for the worse case scenario is paramount, which can be achieved through the close relationship with the key airport operational departments.

The issue of aviation safety has always produced comment, debate and input on a political global scale. Legislation is drawn up and adhered to although further harmonisation is required across the world for standards to become effective. This topic, as well as numerous other subjects were talked about and recently dissected at the Marriot Hotel in Brussels on the 22 and 23 of November 2011.

Zarrko Sivcev, Advisor to COO at EUROCONTROL began proceedings by present – ing the organisation’s involvement in previous crisis situations such as the Balkans in 1999 and more recently the volcanic ash cloud that originated in Iceland and grounded planes across most of Europe. Sivcev was keen to stress the importance of efficient communication as well as garnering political support. Ultimately, it seems that being prepared for the worse case scenario is paramount, which can be achieved through the close relationship with the key airport operational departments.

At the end of 2010, scenes of snow covered runways and stranded planes were common across most of Europe and parts of North America. Doug Johnson, Transport Manager at the Met Office, outlined the affects that extreme weather conditions can have on operations. His presentation highlighted the importance of long term forecasting, focusing on the technology that the Met Office uses to foresee such incidents. Indeed, it will not always be snow causing the problems; fog, nuclear pollution, high winds and even rising sea levels remain a real risk to airports in the future.

Dr Uta Sigl, Head of Aviation Claims, Germany and Holger Fellman, Expert Underwriter for Airports both from Allianz Global Corporate and Speciality gave a joint presentation on the process of underwriting and claims handling following a crisis.

One of the major hubs, Amsterdam, Schiphol is an airport that requires continued airplane movements due its passenger numbers. Like many airports in 2010 it suffered from wintry conditions but maintained a high level of flight movements. Rene Verjans, Crisis Management Specialist at the airport, used the stage to present their winter operations and how they kept the planes flying, at the core of which, is the process of team work and preparation, something that was also discussed by Edzard Boland, Training Specialist at the National Aerospace Laboratory who in his talk, underlined the importance of team training within winter operations.

Making the short journey to the conference was Yves Brouwers, Contingency Manager at the Brussels Airport Company. Yves’ presentation focused on the important aspect of volunteers and how they can be integrated within the airport operation when a situation demands it.

Of course, once a crisis occurs such as an aircraft accident, it is important to liase with affected friends and families as well as the media and relevant emergency services. Each airport needs to have a team and emergency plan in place that melds all these elements together whilst being effective and efficient towards the situation. David Herriman, a Crisis Management Consultant at David Herriman Crisis Management and Business Continuity Solutions gave an extremely informative talk on what is expected from an airport when the worse happens. Of course, the effect on friends and relatives is of high importance during a crisis; Emergency Consultant David Quintana from Gestió i Promoció Aeroportuaria expressed the essence of family assistance in his presentation. Captain Ian Marshall, Group Emergency Manager at BMI, also conveyed his thoughts on how people need to be treated with compassion during a crisis.

The growth of Indian Aviation and in particular it’s airport infrastructure has been one of the bigger success stories within the economic world. However, India has also had to cope with increased security threats in recent times, as well as the constant threat of natural disasters. In view of this, Dr. K J Desavia, Assistant General Manager and Head of Emergency and Continuity Management at Bangalore International Airport Ltd, spoke to the delegates about his airport’s preparation and planning that makes up their emergency procedures in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.

Dr. K J Desavia’s interesting presentation closed an interesting an informative first day that was rounded off by a networking drinks reception.

Robert Jensen began the second day by conveying the importance of collaboration between all involved parties when dealing with crisis management. Donald Steel from Kenyon International Emergency Services was keen to point out the importance of communication during a crisis. His presentation touched on the various teams that need to be set up quickly and efficiently, such as an incident management team and a crisis communications group.

These days the use of communication within social media such as Twitter and Facebook is becoming more and more prominent within aviation operations. Christian Hansen Kamhaug, Head of Social Media at Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) gave a talk that outlined how these new media platforms can be effective within a crisis situation.

Of course, at the core of efficient aviation crisis management is the streamlining of legislation and guidelines, particularly in the field of ARFF (Airfield Rescue Fire Fighting) and recovery. Max Hood, County Fire Officer at the UK’s West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, put forward a vision that promoted operational deployment and interoperability.

Philip Bass, Emergency Response from the lawyer’s Clyde & Co., closed the conference by giving a lawyer’s perspective on what needs to be done legally in the aftermath of an accident, focusing on specific documents, liability claims and a lawyer’s continued role.

Looking forward

The role of communication within a crisis situation seemed to be a common theme at the event and this was something that all participants were keen to take away with them. The event was seen as a huge success with delegates and speakers confirming that it served as an important meeting place in terms of information sharing and relationship building. International Airport Review would like to thank all of the speakers for their informative presentations. Further gratitude must also be extended to the sponsors of the event for their invaluable support.

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